Wednesday, December 29, 2021

NJPW WrestleKingdom 16 Night 1 Preview & Predictions

It's about that time kids.  NJPW's biggest show of the year, now spread over three dates.  It's WRESTLE KINGDOM!

Yeah for some reason WK is now a three-night event, with the third night emanating from Yokohama Arena instead of the Tokyo Dome, and featuring NJPW vs. NOAH matches all night instead of the traditional WK format.  Why that show isn't taking place under a totally separate name I'm sure I don't know.  But the first two nights look and feel like the Wrestle Kingdom lineups we all know and love.  

So for these predictions I'm going to handle the first two shows and my esteemed colleague and former contributor Landon Wayne will cover Night 3 (He's all about Pro Wrestling NOAH these days).

Let's get started!

Night 1

Pre-Show Rambo

So far no participants have been announced for the annual snorefest known as the Rambo, and once again the purpose of this match is to determine the four contenders for the KOPW match on Night 2.  So still pointless.  No real way to predict winners here without an announced lineup but obviously Toru Yano will be one of them, and almost certainly so will Chase Owens.

Pick: Yano, Chase and two other guys

Sho vs. Yoh

What a way to kick things off on the proper show.  It's not often we get a blazing singles match to open the PPV, so this feels special.  These two had a damn fine match at Wrestle Grand Slam last summer and should do so again here.  Yoh is coming off a Super Juniors Final, while Sho has just kinda been doing Bullet Club things.  With Hiromu Takahashi likely reclaiming the IWGP Jr. Title he never lost, Sho seems the logical choice to earn a title shot here.

Pick: Sho

Hiroshi Tanahashi/Ryusuke Taguchi/Rocky Romero vs. Kenta/Taiji Ishimori/El Phantasmo

This is just a preview of the Tana-Kenta match on Night 2.  There's plenty of great talent in this one so it should be a fun six-man, but it probably won't go very long.  The winner doesn't matter much either.

Pick: I'll go with the Bullet Club I guess?

Tetsuya Naito/Sanada/Bushi vs. United Empire

This one should be a lot of fun if given time.  Again, it's just a preview of Night 2 stuff, as Naito and Sanada each have singles matches with UE guys.  Ospreay is slumming it here, in anticipation of his Night 2 title match.

Pick: LIJ

Catch Rules: Katsuyori Shibata vs. TBD

Oh man.  Shibata is making his long-awaited return to the ring in a proper wrestling match.  After wrestling a short exhibition match in October Shibata has decided he's up for something a bit more intensive.  No idea who his opponent will be here; Zack Sabre is already booked.  But it will be a very welcome sight to watch The Wrestler do a European-style match.

Pick: Shibata obviously beats whoever

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Evil

Conspicuous by his absence at this year's WK is the man Ishii defeated for this title, Jay White.  It's a shame we won't see him this year.  But I digress.  Ishii vs. Evil on paper is a monster of a slugfest.  Whether Evil will have his working boots on remains to be seen.  I hope we get the Evil of old, rather than the Bullet Club wanker who stalls and relies on Dick Togo interference the whole time.  Regardless, I think Evil probably wins the title.  

Pick: Evil

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers vs. Hiroki Goto/Yoshi-Hashi

Kind of an odd choice of challengers here, but I guess we've seen enough of DT vs. Naito & Sanada.  This should be a solid bout and will probably get a good amount of time given its spot on the card.  Sadly these tag straps mean very little these days thanks to an anemic division and way too many title changes.  I guess it makes sense to throw Goto and Yoshi a bone.

Pick: Chaos

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi

Speaking of titles with anemic divisions, the Jr. Title is getting the semi-main slot on this show.  Fortunately the division's one true star is involved so the match should be pretty great.  Takahashi desperately needs a better supporting cast to help restore this championship to its former glory.  Maybe once travel restrictions aren't so stringent we'll get some imported talent from AEW and Impact?  Anywho, Hiromu is long overdue to win back this title.

Pick: Takahashi

IWGP World Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada

It's the current champ vs. the company ace, in a rematch from Wrestle Grand Slam.  The top title picture has been a tumultuous one over the last year, with one champion being forced to vacate due to injury and a former champion losing both his title shot and his G1 final due to illness and injury, respectively.  But Shingo Takagi stepped up and gave this championship the stability and prestige it needed.  Now it's time for the company's greatest champion to take back the title he lost two full years ago.  Okada has been carrying around the gorgeous old IWGP Heavyweight title, and I dearly hope he reinstates that belt.  It's time for the Rainmaker to once again reign supreme.

Pick: Okada

Night 1 looks like a fairly stacked eight-man main card, with at least two potential five-star classics.  Everything that needs time should get it, and I think we'll see numerous title changes to set the tone for 2022.  Check back tomorrow for Night 2 picks!

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